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Founders Everywhere: Ali Gara
Ali Gara is the founder & CEO of MagicPort, a digital platform to connect and empower the maritime community for smart sustainable shipping.
Welcome to Founders Everywhere, where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at Everywhere Ventures, a global pre-seed fund supported by a community of 500 founders and operators.
The shipping industry, which keeps our modern world afloat by ferrying goods across the seas, isn't sailing as smoothly as it should. It’s a traditional, fragmented, and siloed industry that is ripe for a digital transformation to improve inefficiencies and become more sustainable. MagicPort is a digital platform for the maritime community, it facilitates collaboration among the key players by providing information, analytics and connected, intelligent software.
Ali Gara started MagicPort with his co-founder Tural Aliyev in Singapore, one of the busiest ports in the world with an average 140,000 vessels calling at the port annually. Ali is originally from Azerbaijan and held positions at BP, the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, and the International Finance Corporation before diving into entrepreneurship. He studied international relations and development in Istanbul and Washington, D.C. and has an MBA from Stanford. He shares more about how MagicPort is making waves in the maritime industry.
Why MagicPort and why now?
Shipping is such a key infrastructure for our modern life; 80-90% of global trade is carried on large ships across seas. Today, 3% of greenhouse gas emissions come from shipping, and everyone has realized this is a big problem. Shipping is a traditional industry that awaits a major digital transformation to become more efficient and sustainable. Much time and many resources are wasted in ship operations primarily due to three key related factors:
Lack of information and visibility
Lags in using data and analytics
Missing an industry platform with connected, intelligent software
I believe by building a single digital platform where we bring together the key players involved in shipping operations and give them these 3 tools, we can transform the entire industry and make a positive global impact.
What is MagicPort’s North Star?
Our North Star is to make shipping smarter and more sustainable, eliminating massive time and resources wasted in ship operations. We believe a digital platform that provides information, visibility, analytics, and software to connect everyone involved in ship operations can improve how millions of people work every day. Our goal is to build a 21st century modern, digital highway for ship operations.
How does MagicPort inspire “customer love”?
Our focus is on collaboration in ship operations. On MagicPort - all key players in ship operations including charterers, owners, managers, ship agents, suppliers, service providers and terminals can connect and work together. We have a bottom-up approach. Oftentimes, software solutions purchased by management don't align with the needs of the end-users, resulting in underutilized tools. We focus on the end-user experience, creating user-friendly products and offering ongoing support and engagement. Our focus is to help our customers and end-users to succeed, which really fosters “customer love.”
Tell us about some recent milestones MagicPort has crushed.
We launched our early products at the beginning of this year and we are just adding our 25th customer. These customers come from 17 different countries, so that’s a big milestone for us. It’s also validating to see the growing user base on our platform, with thousands of people visiting to access ship operations information and connect with one another.
In addition, we've embarked on a major project in Singapore as part of a strong alliance focused on the green transition in the coastal ecosystem. Hundreds of boats serve hundreds of large ships passing Singapore every day. Optimization and electrification of these coastal operations will reduce emissions, pollution, noise and risk in Singapore waters. This is a major transformation that must be supported with data, analytics and digitalization - we are excited to be a digital technology partner for this major initiative to transform the coastal ecosystem in Singapore and I believe we will be able to replicate similar solutions in other ports.
How has your background influenced you as a founder?
Steve Jobs said “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” I can really relate to that quote. We have taken on a truly global, complex and difficult challenge. I was born in Azerbaijan which was part of the Soviet Union back then. I emigrated 3 times, first to Turkey, then to the United States and most recently to Singapore. For our generation, learning other languages and cultures has been a survival skill - I learned six languages through this journey. I believe my diverse background - including having worked in various countries, industries and roles, speaking many languages, and being able to connect to different people has been an advantage. This has enabled me to be a better listener and problem solver, and make connections between diverse areas in this complex industry that requires different skill sets.
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